First Ever Comprehensive Food System Plan will Create Jobs, Improve Health, and Protect Environment

New York, NY – Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn today announced “FoodWorks New York”, a new effort by the City Council to produce the first ever comprehensive plan to use New York City’s food system to create jobs, improve public health and protect the environment. The announcement came at a celebration of the city’s FRESH supermarket initiative, hosted by The New School; New York City Coalition Against Hunger; UFCW Local 1500; We Act for Environmental Justice; New York Faith and Justice; Families United for Racial and Economic Equality; Building Blocks; and Jobs with Justice. The event also featured Dan Barber, owner of Blue Hill Restaurant and farm to table pioneer.

Download a copy of Speaker Quinn’s speech (pdf)
Over the next six months, the Council will work with experts from government, industry, labor and academia, as well as hunger and environmental advocates and community leaders. They’ll be closely examining every step in New York City’s food cycle – production, processing, transport, retail, consumption, and post-consumption.

“For years, we’ve been missing a chance to create a greener, healthier, and more economically vibrant city, by ignoring the enormous potential of our food system,” said Speaker Quinn. “FoodWorks New York is about using food to put New Yorkers to work, and finding ways to make food work for us. Each step in the food cycle – from the farm all the way to the table – has a major impact on the lives of every New Yorker. And each step has the potential to create jobs, to improve public health, and to preserve our shared environment.”

Watch Speaker Quinn deliver remarks about FoodWorks (YouTube)
Speaking at The New School’s Wollman Hall, Speaker Quinn outlined five clear and critical goals that will be met by FoodWorks New York:

1. Improve the city’s food infrastructure. Too much of New York City’s food infrastructure is outdated and inefficient, which costs us jobs and damages our environment. We need to begin making key, targeted investments – creating better links between the city and upstate producers, and supporting a smart redevelopment of Hunts Point.

2. Create new and better jobs in the food industry. There are currently over 19,000 New Yorkers employed in the food industry, but the potential exists for many more. The Council is going to develop creative ways to expand local food manufacturing, and attract more food industry companies to the city.

3. Keep more local food dollars in the local economy. Food sales and services in the five boroughs constitute a $30 billion market, but only 2% of the fruits and vegetables coming through the Hunts Point produce market are grown in New York State. The Council will pursue State legislation allowing the City to prioritize local producers; look to expand farmers markets and CSAs; and encourage more wholesalers, retailers, and restaurants to use regional products.

4. Reduce diet related diseases like obesity, heart disease and diabetes. 58 percent of all adults in New York City are overweight or obese, and more than half a million New Yorkers have been diagnosed with diabetes. We can fight this epidemic by bringing more healthy foods into low income neighborhoods, enroll more New Yorkers in Food Stamps and WIC, and getting more children taking advantage of free meals.

5. Reduce environmental damage from the production, transport, and consumption of food. Food in the US travels an average of 1,500 miles before consumption, dramatically increasing both greenhouse gasses produced and energy consumed. We can get more food transported into the city by rail instead of by truck, expand urban agriculture, and create programs allowing restaurants and homeowners to more easily compost their food scraps.

To help develop FoodWorks New York, the Council will be passing legislation that will require city agencies to report back on food related measures. This data will help set ambitious but achievable goals, and better coordinate efforts across all levels of city government.

All of this work will culminate in the spring, when Speaker Quinn will present the final FoodWorks blueprint, containing a list of concrete policy initiatives.

“Christine Quinn makes me hopeful,” said Dan Barber, owner of Blue Hill restaurant. “Since her election, she’s brought issues like this to the forefront and she’s proposed nuanced solutions like this one–which is not just about food access, it’s about accessing the right kind of food.”

“UFCW was proud to work with Speaker Quinn and the entire Good Food, Good jobs Coalition to make the FRESH initiative a reality,” said Bruce Both, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500. “FoodWorks New York will be a great and innovative way to keep those efforts going, and we look forward working with the Council to find even more opportunities to bring food jobs to New York City.”

“Speaker Quinn’s Food Works New York Initiative announced this morning at the Good Food, Good Jobs Coalition event is a forward looking initiative that promises to use our food system to put New Yorkers back to work with good jobs, improve health and protect the environment,” Peggy Shepard, Co-Founder and Executive Director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “This is the kind of leadership our city needs and WEACT looks forward to working with her to achieve food justice for the communities most impacted.”